ICMI Contact Center Expo 2019: Emphasizing Employee Engagement

FORT LAUDERDALE — Speakers on the second day of ICMI’s Contact Center Expo emphasized employee engagement and addressed a variety of ways to do so, from increasing transparency to building culture among remote agents.

Fancy Mills, group training and content director at ICMI, introduced the idea of process versus practice during her keynote. “We focus a lot on processes in the contact center—[but] digital transformation has really started to shift that to focusing on practices.” The distinction is critical, because a practice focus is more all-encompassing, including processes and procedures but also people and teams, technology and information, and suppliers and partners.

“A practice focus includes all the people and the teams that are needed in defining knowledge, skills, and competency levels. It also includes the processes you’re building, the procedures, policies, knowledge management—what’s the content, the knowledge management, the information, the technology tools, and how are you structuring that to make it easy to find, to utilize in real time throughout the day,” she said. “When we get too process-focused, we don’t become practice-focused.”

When identifying challenges in the contact center, she said, organizations should consider which of the four practice areas they fall under: people and teams (including roles, skills, abilities, and competency levels); processes, procedures, and policies; content, knowledge, information, and technology tools; and suppliers and partners.

Justin Chase, president and CEO at Crisis Response Network, a crisis hotline based in Arizona, said that increasing transparency can help organizations create trust. One area of success for his organization has been allowing staff to choose their own dress code. “I want people to see the contact center for what it is, who they are; I want people to be able to express themselves,” Chase said. “So I said, ‘You guys pick, decide what your dress code should be, write the policy and then we can implement that as an organization.’ Wherever you can find chances to give voice and choice to the staff supports the transparency piece.”

The organization also encourages executive leadership to engage with employees. “Every day, our executive leadership team has to walk the floor, with no purpose or intention whatsoever. If they have business on the floor, that doesn’t count. They have to walk the floor every single day and interact with the staff. My CFO has to walk the floor every single day to get that impact, that relationship—for the staff to feel comfortable and connected,” he elaborated.

Karen Arnold, tech support hiring manager at Automattic, the web development company that makes Wordpress.com, discussed how to build a culture among remote agents. One way her organization has done so is fostering independence by making its company handbook easily accessible. “Our company guide book, our field guide, has everything—it’s a huge document, but it’s a website built on Wordpress. It has instructions on how to do any kind of thing that you need to do in the company, any kind of process that you need to do, any kind of terminology that you need to know, and it’s searchable,” she explained.

“One of the first things that we talk about with people is if you have a question, you go look for the answer—you’re at home, you’ve got to figure it out,” she continued. “It’s very much a process of searching for things ourselves, looking up the information, and this field guide is the place we go to do that.”

She added that based on satisfaction surveys, the organization has found that employees appreciate the flexibility of working from home. “What we find is that people say that working from home is really one of the things that keeps them with us, and it leads to a pretty low turnover rate,” she said.

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